Wednesday 21 October 2020

Olympus E-M10: manual focus tips

Manually focusing a camera accurately can be tricky.


But cameras like the E-M10 have a few options which may help.

This short post mentions a couple of them.

I've always found 'manual operation' when taking photos far more rewarding than setting the camera to "auto" and allowing it to do its stuff.

Trying to manually focus a camera, especially when the aperture is set wide open, can be a real challenge. As I see it, there are two basic problems:-

  1. assessing whether the lens is correctly focused, and
  2. which way to rotate the lens to correctly focus?

assessing focus

There are two options which enable the user to more accurately assess the point of focus; image magnification and focus peaking.

As its name suggests, image magnification just zooms into a central area of the image, making it easier to see fine detail. I sometimes just use the zoom button to do this.

Focus peaking uses coloured dots to illuminate the areas that are in focus. This may only work for high contrast areas of the image. I'm not a fan, but most people seem to love it.

Click on the E-M10 menu button then navigate to Custom Menu > A > MF Assist where you will be able to switch on Magnify or Peaking or (if you prefer) both options.

My personal preference is just to use Magnify. I also almost exclusively use the main display rather than the electronic view finder (EVF) but the results are the same in both cases.

lens rotation

Manual focus lenses have a nice distance scale, and can only be rotated until they reach an end stop. The benefit of these lenses (apart from the lower cost) is that you can quickly pre-set the focus point roughly to what is required using the distance scale, before making final fine adjustments. On a modern auto lens, the lens does not have ends stops, so can be rotated around and around, often with no indication of which way to go.

However, the E-M10 has a nice combination focus mode: S-AF + MF

So when set to S-AF + MF, the camera initially performs auto focus when the shutter is depressed half way. By keeping the shutter half depressed you can then fine tune focus by rotating the lens focus ring.

And if using this focus mode, I would also suggest you use the back-focus button (AEL/AFL) rather than half pressing the shutter:-
Go to menu > Custom Menu > A > AEL/AFL > S-AF


...and select mode3


So now you can quickly focus using Fn1 (AEL/AFL) and then fine tune focusing without having to keep the shutter half depressed.

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